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US Navy drone makes first flight from naval base
Posted On: Aug 01, 2012
The US Navy/Northrop Grumman-developed X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System made its debut flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., on July 29. A Northrop photo
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER (BNS):
A tactical unmanned combat aircraft being developed for the US Navy has made its debut flight from a naval base ahead of its flight trials from an aircraft carrier scheduled for next year.
The Northrop-built X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) was test flown from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland for the first time on July 29.
The flight of the tailless strike-fighter-sized aircraft, which was transported to the Navy base in June from the Edwards Air Force Base, California, lasted for about 36-minutes.
The aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 7,500 feet and a maximum air speed of 180 knots during the flight.
It marks the first time a tactical unmanned aircraft has been fully integrated into the air traffic patterns and the command and control structure of the Pax River flight test complex, Northrop, the prime contractor for the Navy's UCAS Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) programme, said.
"This flight of the X-47B is the first time an autonomous, carrier-capable unmanned system has flown at Pax River. It's also a major milestone for the programme as the Navy/Northrop Grumman team prepares the aircraft to enter carrier suitability testing this fall, the last major phase of testing before we begin carrier trials in 2013," said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS programme manager for Northrop Grumman.
The flight test also reconfirmed the aircraft's aerodynamic performance, and the performance of its propulsion and flush air data systems. Mission operators also confirmed that the aircraft responded correctly to commands from its onboard guidance, navigation and control system.
During the flight, the aircraft communicated with a shore-based version of the aircraft carrier systems that will help guide the X-47B to precision landings on the carrier deck, that are located in the Navy UCAS Aviation/Ship Integration Facility at Pax River, Northrop said.
In 2013, the UCAS-D programme plans to demonstrate the ability of the X-47B to safely operate from a Navy aircraft carrier, including launch, recovery, and air traffic control operations. Those trials will be followed by a demonstration of autonomous aerial refueling in 2014, the company said.
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